This Week In Japan #24 (September 18th, 2020)

Yoshihide Suga becomes the new Prime Minister, Naomi Osaka wins the U.S. Open again, and more big news stories!

September 19, 2020

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Hosts of This Week In Japan

Julian Domanski

Born in England, Julian is a writer, videographer & musician living in Tokyo. When he’s not drinking copious amounts of English Tea, he can be found studying Japanese or trying to master the surprisingly complex basics of the Jiuta Shamisen.

Yasuharu Matsuno

Founder of Japan Insider (Former Ryu Tokyo). Japanese-born entrepreneur. Yasu spent his life around the globe – Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, Australia, and the U.S. He hopes he had more time to play Japanese RPGs. MBA from Columbia University in the City of New York.

Yoshihide Suga Named Japan’s New Prime Minister

Prime Minister Suga celebrating his win among fellow politicians, Image sourced from mainichi.jp.

This Monday, September 14th, Yoshihide Suga won the election for Prime Minister of the Liberal Democratic Party. The results came as no surprise considering his backing from the majority of the party, but who exactly is the man taking up the role of prime minister?

Suga himself comes from a small town in Akita prefecture, where his father worked as a strawberry farmer and his mother as a schoolteacher. As a young boy, instead of inheriting his family farm, he headed to Tokyo where he went to university.

After graduating, he worked as a secretary for a Diet member for over 10 years before running a successful campaign for the Yokohama City Assembly in 1987. In 1996, he received a chance to run for the Liberal Democratic Party and was elected into the House of Representatives. Suga was chosen as a member of Abe Shinzo`s cabinet back during his first tenure back in 2006. 

He is known for his extreme work ethic. Suga is said to wake up every day at 5 a.m. to watch the latest news, go for a 40-minute walk, do 100 sit-ups, eat breakfast, and be in the office by 9 a.m. While at work, daily press conferences and dozens of meetings were the norm for the Prime Minister’s right-hand man. He is also a fan of pancakes and is said to treat his coworkers several times a month. 

Even with a new prime minister, the majority of Abe Shizno’s cabinet is expected to remain for Suga’s tenure. Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Katsunobu Kato was selected to take over Suga`s role as the new chief cabinet secretary. The former Defense Minister Taro Kono will also stay on, but has been changed to the Minister for administrative reform. Abe Shinzo`s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, has been selected to become the new Minister of Defense. 

Suga said he is going to focus on the tasks of decreasing corona infections, combating the decreasing birth rate, and revitalizing the economy.

Naomi Osaka Wins the US Open Again

Naomi Osaka secured her second U.S. Open win last Saturday. Image sourced from japantoday.com.

This Saturday Japan-born tennis player Naomi Osaka secured her second victory in the U.S. Open, defeating her opponent Victoria Azarenka. While Osaka, and her many Japanese sponsors, are celebrating the limelight, some were concerned about her recent actions regarding representation and police brutality. 

During each of her matches in the tournament, she donned a different black mask that read a different name of black citizens killed in recent years by police. Osaka clearly wished to convey a message, and after her first round, she addressed her intentions openly, saying “It’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names…So, hopefully, I’ll get to the finals, and you can see all of them.” Fortunately for Osaka, she was able to wear all of her masks up until the finals. 

In America, many are praising her boldness for bringing attention to such a serious issue by using her platform, but there are some mixed views in Japan regarding her outspokenness. 

According to sources tied to Osaka’s Japanese sponsors, one representative stated, “There hasn’t been any impact in particular, but it’s not something we’re openly happy about.” Another Japanese sponsor stated a similar quote: “I think it’s wrong to bring the issue of racial discrimination and her trade, tennis, together.”

Digital Theft On The Rise With Multiple Cases of Hacking

Docomo’s new payment service has a run into identity verification issues, leading to unauthorized withdrawals. Image sourced from english.kyodonews.net.

Digital theft is on the rise recently with several incidents of unauthorized withdrawals from various institutions. 

This Monday, NTT Docomo Inc., an electronic payment service, officially announced that they had confirmed over 120 cases of exploitation of their online service. Around 25.4 million yen (roughly $240,000) was stolen. 

The company recently expanded it`s online payment service to other carriers as well in September. However, in order to register an account only a name and email address were necessary. With no proof of identity system in place, it made it easy for fake accounts to be made. The company has since apologized for its slow response and assured its users that proof of identification will now be required before being able to use the service.

In another incident, 17 illegal charges have been tied to Japan Post Bank using another smartphone payment service, PayPay. Altogether, the amount withdrawn was around 1.4 million yen. PayPay has since promised to compensate the victims in full. The details of the breach are currently unknown. 

Japan still accepts only cash payments in many places outside of cities. Digital payments and cards have only recently started to be more integrated, but to successfully integrate digital pay the propeller precautions must also be taken. Lax security or verification to access a bank account online could otherwise prove catastrophic for some customers.

Final Fantasy XVI and Other Big Titles Announced During PS5 Presentation

Final Fantasy XVI was one of several new PS5 exclusive titles announced by Sony this week.

On Thursday, Sony delivered an impressive line-up of first looks into new titles for the upcoming Playstation 5. Among the trailers revealed, fans of the Final Fantasy series were especially excited with the announcement of Final Fantasy 16, a new story that appears to pay homage to the roots of the series. 

Final Fantasy 16 looks to be based in a more medieval world than other recent entries in the series, with magic and crystals seeming to play a vital role. Summons, another staple in the series, appear to be a large part of the gameplay. The combat system resembles that of FFXV.

Final Fantasy XVI wasn’t the only title that Sony showed off either. Stunning footage of the Demon Souls remake was also shown, getting fans of the now 11-year-old game more excited than ever. A game play demo for Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Resident Evil 8 were revealed along with a teaser to God of War 5 as well.

Mother and Son Arrested for Selling Knock-off Pokemon Goods

Counterfeit play mats like the one above were resold at inflated prices.

On September 10th, charges were filed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s Ikegami Precinct against a 23-year-old male office worker from Kyoto and his 49-year-old mother. 

The mother-son duo had been running a Pokemon good counterfeit business illegally since last fall. The duo would resell Chinese-imported knock-off Pokemon trading card game playmats at inflated prices. The son was in charge of purchasing the goods while the mother handled shipping the orders out. 

The mats were reportedly purchased for around 700 yen each and resold at 3,000 yen each.

The illegal teamwork of the mother and son managed to net them a profit of around 2 million yen. When asked for a motive, the son answered “I did it to make money.” The mother simply replied, “I did it because I wanted my son to make money.”

Christian Dakin

Christian Dakin is an editor, designer, and video game director currently based out of Tokyo, Japan. Originally from a small town in Georgia, he studied in Japan for a year in college before returning again for work. Christian enjoys studying Japanese and the outdoors. In his off time, he is most likely to be found adventuring to a castle, belting it out in karaoke with friends, or in a gym somewhere.

More articles by Christian Dakin

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